Ban the Prong Collar?

The internet has given the world freedom of speech and the right to share our opinions.

With that seems to have come the right to critique, insult, berate, attack and torture others, even if you have little to no experience on the topic in question.

In my profession, everyone is an expert, even when they have little to no experience, no body of work they are willing to share and are highly qualified behind the keyboard and nowhere to be seen demonstrating effective work.

Recently a discussion has surfaced around prong collars

I have been tagged and linked hundreds of times to articles and reading through many of the comments is disappointing to say the least.

I can confidently say that anyone commenting there would probably describe themselves as a dog lover, which means they all have something in common, or at least, should have all dogs welfare in common.

But watching people attack each other without an ounce of respect is no less than disgusting.

Preface

Look I just wanted to try and cover some very common things I hear in debates that seem to revolve around the Prong Collar. 

I have extensive experience with this tool both here and overseas, originally learning the benefits from dog sport trainers, Military and Police Dog Trainers, Correctional Services Dog Trainers and into Behaviour Modification techniques that helped gain progress where other systems had been unsuccessful.

I have demonstrated the use of Prong Collars to thousands of people, at seminars and workshops, private consults and other times. I have NEVER had anyone, who was previously for or against the prong collar, state that there was any abuse, cruelty or fear in the training of the dog.

I have been presented with hundreds of dogs that were deemed “untrainable” by many others that are living peaceful and happy lives with their owners now, simply because I have a vast array of methods and training aids I am versed in using effectively.

I have been brought numerous dogs that were scheduled for Euthanasia due to behaviours the owner could not live with any longer. These dogs live on today…

I don’t feel the prong collar is, nor should be a mainstream training aid. I feel it is a training aid that is incredibly valuable for some dogs and some owners.

Those dogs and those owners need these training aids in the training and control of their dog. 

I have never witnessed an injury caused by a Prong Collar being used to train a dog.

I have seen photos of dogs where collars, halters and harnesses have become imbedded into a dogs skin. This was caused by the equipment being left on for months usually.

Skin damage and injuries do not occur with prong collar use. They may occur with ANY collar or harness or head halter though if left on permanently for an extended time.

Let’s try and just stop for a minute and consider the arguments against Prong Collars

Only dog abusers use Prong Collars

Does anyone really think that all of the people that use a prong collar or have used one are happily abusing their dogs?

Really?

Are you suggesting that the clients that I recommend a prong collar to, are so stupid, that they cannot see if their dog is suffering, is in pain, is shut down, miserable or being abused?

If you are answering yes, then you have some issues of your own that need attention.

The clients that come to me who have dog behaviour problems, mostly fit into the category of “dog owners that value their dogs their dogs as family members”.

They almost unanimously want the absolute best for their dogs and are very dedicated to getting them help.

A lot of these people have suffered failure after failure with methods, trainers and training aids and have kept searching for success.

BUT THEY KEPT GOING!

Imagine then finding that success, having your dog behaving appropriately and is now going for walks, attending cafes and has such a better life, only to be told that you are a dog abuser for using a training aid that that helped bring that success.

Imagine walking your dog down the street in a nice calm loose leash walk, when this dog used to be walked at midnight (when possible) to avoid any distraction and NOW you’re a terrible person for helping your dog…

I have watched people be told these things and simply deflate and feel like it is hopeless.

Why would you do that to someone… I call that, abuse.

The power of Positive…

Here are some of the things that people who think using anything other than positive reinforcement have said, yes, I am serious.

I see you support prong collar use; I hope your children die of cancer.”

I would love to HURT any person I saw using a prong collar to teach them not to.”

I would love to put a prong collar on you and drag you round the block behind my car”.

“If I saw a dog with a prong collar on, I would gut the owner with a knife!”

“Positive reinforcement is the most successful method of training, and if you use a prong collar, you will be fined.”

So, it seems that they would use positive punishment to teach humans to learn the best way to train a dog?!

The abuse argument

Can dogs be abused with prong collars? Of course, they can be abused without them too.

Using a prong collar is not abuse, in fact if you use any training aid that supplies any level of aversive, you are in the same category as any person that uses a prong.

If you wish to ban any tool that can cause discomfort or pain, then I can prove to you that fitting a dog with any collar or any harness can do just that. Ban all of them, then you will need to ban dogs.

Aversive = Positive Punishment and the tools that can provide these are: –

  • Prong collars
  • Check Chains
  • Slip leashes
  • Head Halters
  • Anti pull harnesses
  • Harnesses
  • Remote collars
  • Pet Corrector (spray of air)
  • Flat collars

In fact, any time your dog feels any discomfort, they could be described as experiencing positive punishment.

The above aids are simply different ways of applying pressure, they are all the same in some way or another.

A prong collar is a series of links and chain designed to apply even pressure around the circumference of the dog’s neck. The contact surface area is small meaning LESS pressure is felt on the neck of the dog.

Any dog Chiropractor or Osteopath I have worked with has had no problem with the prong collar, most though advise against head halters and no pull harnesses.

A piece of metal cannot abuse a dog. A person can abuse a dog without a prong collar, and they will.

Ban cruel people not training aids.

Below are the Operant Conditioning Quadrants, it is not science if you cover one eye only read the parts you like.

That is called Cognitive Bias. Those who are driven by cognitive bias are only going to offer help that meets the bias they have, whether or not that is helpful to you and your dog will not be the priority.

There are better ways to train dogs than with fear and cruelty

Fear and cruelty are not training methods or training aids, so I don’t know anyone that uses them, and suggesting people are using fear and cruelty is another attack.

Prong collars do not create fear and are not cruel, unless you think having your kids doing chores around the home is slavery.

If it didn’t hurt, it would not work.

Often, I will show how we motivate a dog with minor (prong) collar pressure. It is clear to anyone watching (with even half a brain) the dog is not in any pain.

Next you hear from an internet expert; “if it didn’t hurt it wouldn’t work”.

Well ponder this, why does food work? Does that hurt?

When you truly understand the effect of operant conditioning principles, it becomes easy to understand why the prong works so well.

When you dive in with emotive comments and talk of abuse, I’m sorry but you simply just convey how little you actually know. It also may demonstrate your Cognitive Bias which removes your ability look at evidence rationally.

When we try and educate people on the use of tools, sometimes, they are so averse to perhaps finding a benefit they don’t listen to learn, they only listen to argue.

This makes that persons opinion useless as they will not consider all evidence, only evidence against.

That collar is illegal / legal.

Ok this is where a big problem exists. 

Number 1. The laws vary from state to state, one would wonder why considering the dogs are the same. 

Number 2. You cannot believe what you read.

An article was released recently stating that “banned collars are being imported“. The reality is that Prong collars are not banned collars, they are actually a restricted import. This means they are 100% legal to import with permission / permit from the Minister.

Prong collars are legal to use in all states except Victoria.

If an agencies or group wish to inform people of the laws or restrictions, they really should just make the actual law clear, leave any opinions or bias out.

Our business works with many severe behaviour cases. Most of the dogs that come to see me and those that stay in our rehab program have been to other trainers, often many other trainers and behaviourists and the problem behaviour, very often aggression, was not reduced in any way at all, often got worse, even after years of training.

I am not blaming the previous trainers; it was that they lacked experience with dogs with problems of this magnitude. It is as simple as that.

These dogs come to work with us and largely because we are seeing so many dogs like this, they are not a huge problem for us and without the training and behaviour modification programs we have, these dogs will simply spend their lives in a back yard or be put to sleep.

So, when the people that make the rules are the same people that have not been rehabilitate these dogs, or the rule makers are informed by the people who cannot rehabilitate dogs, this is why training aids are banned.

Imagine a training aid that without question has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of dogs, all over the world, being banned by: –

  • Someone who has never used one.
  • Someone who has never been shown correct use and benefits.
  • Someone who has never been successful at rehabilitating dogs with severe problems.
  • Someone who has Cognitive Bias that is restriction their ability to rationally assess the prong collar.
  • Someone who would put a dog to sleep that could be rehabilitated with the humane use of a training aid

This is the BIG problem.

“My trainer only uses Positive reinforcement”

If your trainer has told you this, he or she is either lying or has no understanding of the operant conditioning principles.

Do your research and find out the truth. If you won’t then you’re simply being fooled.

Science proves that…

People sprouting the “science proves” argument.

“Science has proven that positive reinforcement is the best training method”.

Science has actually described the effects of operant conditioning as associative learning in which reinforcement and punishment can affect the strength of the behaviour. It is also a procedure that is used to bring about such learning.

In my opinion any scientist who ignores the effect of half the quadrants to suit the study should be avoided.

Each of the 4 quadrants plays a role in the learning experience and strengthening or extinction of a behaviour. The sooner you come to terms with those facts the sooner your dogs will become reliable and confident dogs.

Using the quadrant/s that best motivates and reinforces the dog in front of you will always be the most effective.

There is a saying that goes “the dog chooses the reinforcement” and that saying is in respect to the dog.

Some dogs have genetic dispositions, where trying to motivate and reinforce behaviours with food will not produce any behaviour modification or reliable behaviours in any reasonable amount of time, if ever.

That is a fact, so those dogs will learn more efficiently using negative reinforcement.

When trainers and behaviourists keep pushing the line that science has proven they way they are training is best, it seems to me that this is because they can’t show any improvement with the dogs.

Results speak for themselves

The last resort.

There are the people that have come to learn to say “I would use a prong as a last resort”.

In my experience, these people have argued against the use of prongs and been met with evidence to prove the prong collars value.

Now they will not use a prong collar but sit on the fence by saying “I would as a last resort”.

When you agree that a prong collar is ok as a last resort, this means you are willing to try and fail at many tools and methods and then move to the prong.

What do you think the dog learns in this process?

He or she learns that your attempts to modify their behaviour will be short lived, making the dog more resilient to pressure.

When you run through half a dozen training aids and give each one a reasonable amount of time to be a evaluated

  • How much time have you actually wasted?
  • How much more intrinsic reinforcement has the dog gained rehearsing the problem behaviour?
  • How much if any of your optimism is left that this behaviour can be modified?
  • How much of the client’s money has been wasted on the training aids that are clearly ineffective?
  • How many people give up before moving to the prong collar and the dog ends up???

Hence the damage the “last resort” mindset can cause.

Dogs that come to me are assessed, I observe their behaviour and responsiveness to the training aid they may be wearing, my presence, many other variables and the owner’s ability and size and make experienced choices of equipment that will help training progress.

This sometimes means that a dog coming to me for the first time, starts on a prong collar, because I find it unethical to provide services that do not benefit the dog and client.

What about the LIMA principle?

LIMA stands for Least Intrusive / minimally aversive and I am all for that, but I will add “that provides results” to the end.

Least intrusive minimally aversive that provides results.

Zoo animals are trained purely positive.

That of course is not true, it is not even remotely possible but the animal trainers I know that train at zoos use negative punishment in combination with positive reinforcement and many also often use body pressure, barriers and prods to apply positive punishment.

FACT: Firstly, any animal that is working for food will be experiencing positive reinforcement and negative punishment throughout the training.

CRITERIA: The necessary element of a zoo animal is to be an exhibit. People see the animal and its job is done.

The training they receive is largely based around care (husbandry).

The animals are within limited spaces and not exposed to variable distractions.

Very often trainers are separated from animals by bars, mesh, or glass etc.

Many animal enclosures are surrounded by electric fences to prevent escape.

The time frame to get the training completed is not the priority. It could take over a decade with an elephant and that would be accepted.

This does not mean the trainers lack skill, quite the opposite in my experience, they are just working on different criteria.

A person’s pet dog has a very different set of behaviour goals, to behave in public, to behave within the constraints of the law, to be allowed freedom off leash and in highly variable environments and distractions and if the owner seeks training, the trainer must show results within a short space or at least reasonable amount of time.

Dog owners do not have unlimited funds, trainers need to provide value (results) in a reasonable amount of time.

I know some fabulous animal trainers at zoos, love their work and marvel at what many of them have achieved.

But training dogs for public and training zoo animals within confinement are not good comparisons to make if you want to make a good argument.

There are more humane methods available…

This is like finding the end of the rainbow, the departments and groups that say this never show any evidence that it has happened, or did happen but only suggest it can happen like it is some secret.

I understand that years ago, putting out content was a major task, but these days lone dog trainers are making video’s of their training and making it available.

People scan the globe for evidence of dogs with severe aggression being cured with Positive Reinforcement, trainers directly ask for it and offer to pay for it, yet it never seems to exist.

What does exist though is though is Pentobarbitone. This is the drug used to put dogs to sleep and is more popular than prong collars with this group.

Lower the standards?

  • How many dogs will walk at heel under distraction?
  • How many dogs will down stay at a cafe whilst you walk inside and pay for your lunch?
  • How many dogs will recall every time?
  • How many dogs will sit when cued without a handful of food?

The true answer is “very few”.

I would take the risk and say less than 5% and that is being generous.

I actually feel it is less than 2%!

The standard of training most people have with their dogs is almost non-existent.

Showing your dog food and getting him to sit in your kitchen is not training.

Training is when you can get your dog to sit in most if not all environments and without the presence of food.

I see people allowing terrible behaviour from their dogs whilst their human children are raised with tight rules and boundaries.

Are they being cruel to the kids or cruel to the dog?

A dog that has training knows what they should do, a dog that doesn’t just does as he or she pleases until the owner gets angry.

Love and kindness, the best training tools…

There are people arguing down the prong collar and they explain how well trained their dogs are without the need for anything other than love and kindness.

Here are a few important points to consider…

  1. What about dogs that don’t respond to those elements?
  2. How many dogs have you trained? 1 or 2 usually.
  3. How many dogs with serious aggression problems have your rehabilitated?
  4. How many of you would bring your dog to show us just how good the training is, rather than tell us on the internet?

I don’t think I have ever seen a dog turn up at my training centre that has not been exposed to love and kindness, like everything, dogs are individual, and they choose what works for them.

The Magic prong collar…

Dog owners often refer to the Prong Collar as “The Magic Collar”. They watch me systematically teach their dog using the Prong Collar and sing the collars praises!

In fact it is more to do with the “way” I use the prong collar, rather than the collar itself. I take advantage of the small surface area and with small amounts of pressure applied with very good timing, training progresses.

It is a TRAINING AID, it AIDS, helps, improves training.

Modern, Science Based, Purely Positive, Progress or not?

With all of our modern training methods, better ways, more humane training systems, extensive use of Positive Reinforcement and extensive access to information, I have never in over 30 years been brought so many aggressive dogs.

These are some facts that no one can really argue: –

  • There are more aggressive dogs than ever.
  • There are more dogs being put to sleep for behaviour problems than ever.
  • There are more people being killed by dogs than ever
  • There are more dogs killing livestock than ever.
  • There are more dogs being killed by other dogs than ever.
  • There are more dogs under council restriction than ever.

Don’t ban anything until you get a handle on the above or you will just see the above problems increase.

I would pay any trainer to show me them taking one of the seriously human aggressive dogs we have come in here and solve these problems with Positive Reinforcement only.

Welfare. It’s about welfare.

Has your dog ever escaped your yard and been lost? If you answered no, then consider that when your dog was microchipped, with that very thick and unquestionably painful needle, it to date has been of no value.

Retrospectively speaking, this dog was subjected to pain for no benefit.

That is the closest I can come to describing what cruelty is.

Pain for no benefit.

Does that mean I am against microchipping, not at all, because if a dog is lost it can improve the chances of the dog making it back home.

That is a welfare benefit.

So, if you consider the way that I use a prong, I will the majority of the time apply mild discomfort for a very important gain, consider the welfare benefits.

The below is one of the Labradors we breed. He is 5 months old, this is our standard.

The reality.

I have trained many dogs in my life; I have no idea how many but at best estimate it would be well over 100 000.

I taught and trained my working line Malinois Venom all his life skills, behaviour, working role without using any collar at all.

His standard of training in the first 5 years of his life was what most professionals would call, very high, across a range of skill sets including bite work.

By being very clear on how he would earn and lose (+R and -P) his rewards and good management I didn’t need to use anything more.

That was more luck, good fortune, huge amount of experience and a dog with a super drive for rewards, than something I planned to do.

Venom was fitted with a prong collar when he was young, about 6 or so months. I was waiting for the day that he stopped following my advice and this training aid will help him stay on track.

The day never came, so I got tired of putting the collar on, never attaching a leash to it after a few months and put it back in my bag for future use.

He is almost 10 now and it has not gone on again.

This is not repeatable for the exceptionally large majority of pet owners.

This would be impossible for 99.9% of working breeds to get this level of training without some training aid.

I would never promise a client I can guarantee this level of training on this breed without using some training aid, even though I have done it.

Results are the goal, not the choice of tool.

People turn to the internet for help and advice, you really should not. There is some good advice to be found, also some unbelievably bad, dangerous, inaccurate and downright stupid advice.

The internet doesn’t label which so sifting through the rubbish to find the gold often sees people lost.

It is also agenda driven, every bit of it.

THIS article is agenda driven; the agenda is to stop banning training aids that save dogs lives.

If the concern is that we’re taking prong collars out of the abusers hands, then the solution is to take the dogs out of the abusers hands.

Those who are passionate about prong collars are the people who have used them.

Those that hate them are people who have never used them.

What does that say?

Training with Prong Collar Vs. Euthanasia?

Your kidding right? First this comparison can not be made really, here is why.

Euthanasia is a mercy killing, to remove pain and suffering.

That’s why many dogs with behavioural problems cant actually be Euthanised. They are not suffering, or in pain. They are acting out the way they have learned how.

So the actually question should be, Train with a Prong Collar or Kill the dog.

And that is a no brainer.

Many people will say that they have owned many dogs and never needed a prong collar, my answer is that no ones needed a prong collar until they did.

If these higher end training aids are banned, understand that dogs will die.

Anyone that aims for bans MUST take responsibility for these lives that WILL be lost without these training aids.

Those in power of deciding which training aids and methods we use to save dogs lives are seriously lacking guidance by people who have experience with these tools.

People who have experience with these tools and methods and have had countless success cases with them are not being asked to submit any information.

Asking people who have never used these training aids on their value is like a blind man what something looks like.

Will every dog benefit from the higher end training aids? No of course not, but some will simply not survive without them.

Will other methods simply improve if they are banned?

Perhaps but would you bet your dogs life on it?

What am I saying here? Well it is very simple…

Don’t ban training aids that could help even one single dog, never mind those that save hundreds of thousands.

Don’t use a prong collar if you don’t want to! Just leave those alone that need do.

Don’t believe it if you don’t see it with your own eyes.

Don’t let people tell you what tools are good are bad, choose for yourself after thorough research.

Don’t let any organisation, group or government ban a training tool, if you do, volunteer to put the dogs to sleep that resulted in from the ban.

Don’t ban Prong collars but do ban dog abusers, they are two different things.

Do focus on welfare, results and progress.

Do open your mind and look at what is actually happening.

Do admit that a collar cannot be cruel, or abusive, its just a collar. 

Do look at the good that is being done with these collars, not just pictures of supposed abuse.

Do avoid people whose training ideologies are more important to them than actual results.

Do understand that not all dogs or breeds or even dogs within a breed are the same.

Do show me your results rehabilitating numerous aggressive working breeds with Positive Reinforcement.

Consultation

I am ALWAYS more than willing to professionally discuss the benefits, uses and missuses of prong collars with individuals or authorities and can provide supporting evidence.

I am passionate about helping dogs and their owners, any and everything I do is simply aimed at that specific goal.

Please do share and help…

 

About SteveK9Pro

Steve Courtney is a Nationally Accredited Canine Behaviour Specialist, Obedience Trainer, Law Enforcement Dog Trainer and ANKC Breeder. Steve has been training dogs all his life and in these articles he shares with you his experience...

Check Also

Is your dog mouthing, nipping, biting you?

I want to start by saying that, it is rare that this behaviour is good …

2 comments

  1. Michael C Mirecki

    I am strongly considering a prong (and a muzzle for vet visits and the like). Shadow is quite reasonably behaved, but I’m struggling with a bit of dog and human reactivity (it’s excitement only at this stage). I want to nip it in the bud. I’ve got a head harness, but I hate using it, and without it, those major distractions leave me with little control. 🙁

  2. I had never seen a prong collar until.i met Steve Courtney with my Anatolian shepherd I was a little reserved when I saw one but willing to try as a dog of this size and weight that is dog reactive can easily pull a small framed woman over Using the prong collar on both my Anatolian shepherd dogs has resulted in ease of control of them without the pulling and the strugglei in breathing that a check chain gave both dogs I feel it is a much safer tool to use doing less damage to my dogs They do not even feel in and still have full trust in me Maybe if I got the dogs as pups instead of young adult rescue dogs I may not have needed the use of the prong collar I say don’t judge people or the training tool unless you have seen it work for yourself

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *